Introducing: The Conversation

A group of Australian scientists recently began a new online effort to correlate the body of science and the rising human influence on the climate system.

Their initial piece, “Climate change is real: an open letter from the scientific community,” covers The Conversation, an academic Web site that aims to provide a credible source of analysis and information on important issues as traditional journalism shrinks.

The letter is in the style of recent American-fronted efforts to counter individuals and groups who have mastered the use of the Web as a means of disseminating and aggregating all kinds of information be it fact or fiction so long as it casts doubt on climate science.

In contrast to Skeptical Science and RealClimate, tightly focused on science questions, this initiative appears to be trying to both clarify the state of the science on global warming and the same breath encourage policies that might possibly curb greenhouse gas emissions.

This excerpt manages to do a justice to the overall style:

“Like all great challenges, climate change has brought out the best and the worst in people. A vast number of scientists, engineers, and visionary businessmen are boldly designing a future that is based on low-impact energy pathways and living within safe planetary boundaries; a future in which substantial health gains can be achieved by eliminating fossil-fuel pollution; and a future in which we strive to hand over a liveable planet to posterity.”

“On the other extreme, economic instability and fear of radical change have been exploited by ideologues and other interests vested to whip up ill-informed, climate scientists and populist rage have become the punching bag of shock jocks and tabloid scribes.”

The Problem with Camels

Recently, the Australian government proposed that killing camels should be an officially recognized means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The country down under has the world’s largest wild camel population; an estimated 1.2 million – and they consider this to be a growing environmental problem.

Every camel belches an estimated 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of methane per year; that is equivalent to a metric ton (1.1 U.S. ton) of carbon dioxide in its impact on global warming. This is roughly one-sixth the amount of CO2 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says an average car produces per year.

A bill to create a carbon credit regime will go to a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and is expected to become law within weeks.

A government registry will be set up to determine what actions would qualify for carbon credits, and bureaucrats are expected to decide by the end of the year whether killing camels will be among them.

The government’s parliamentary secretary for climate change, Mark Dreyfus, said he hopes the proposal wipes out camels from the Australian wild.

“Potentially it has tremendous merit, because feral camels are a dreadful menace across the whole of arid Australia”.

Dreyfus said at an Associated Press meeting Thursday.

Oil in Australia

Queensland is facing a major oil spill that could threaten the Great Barrier Reef. Is there a way to avoid such spills in the future? It seems to me that these sort of things happen all too often.

Virtual Drugs

Psychoactive drugs change a person’s state of mind, behavior, and intelligence. However, they also have negative side effects, social repercussions, and a lasting residue.

In contrast, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) works directly on our thought processes, without the need of any chemical intake.

How does it work? Well, our brain is an bio-electrical machine, where electric impulses are used to transfer information across individual neuron cells, and sometimes between different neuron cells. As any physics student knows, an electric current produces a magnetic field, and conversely, a magnetic field affects nearby electric currents. Therefore if we could manipulate the magnetic environment in our brains, we would get the chance to “play around” with our thought processes — or cognitive faculties.

This is exactly what TMS aims to do. It has the ability to instantly and temporarily affect specific regions in our brain, thus allowing scientists and surgeons to get “online” feedback for their research or surgical operation. On the other hand, regular TMS sessions might prove to have a lasting effect, and the possibility of a “TMS therapy” is currently examined across the globe in the context of relieving psychological ailments such as depression.

For example, a renowned researcher in Australia had discovered that people significantly improve their drawing ability while being stimulated by a TMS. The New York Times reporter even compared his TMS experience to a Savant ability. (Savants are genius autistic people).